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From Split Log to Bow Stave: The Last Day

AEthelmearc Gazette - Tue, 2016-11-15 21:02

– my adventures at the two and a half day Bow Making Workshop at Primitive Pursuits in upstate Arnot Forest during prime fall colors…
By Elska á Fjárfella of the Dominion of Myrkfaelinn.

The third day started cloudy and quickly turned into drizzle. Even though we worked outdoors for most of the workshop, we fortunately had the luxury of a roofed pavilion, courtesy of Cornell University’s Arnot Teaching & Research Forest, as getting the bow staves wet or even damp should be avoided (I’d brought mine home to stay the night in the car, instead of all alone under the pavilion.). Moisture can swell the wood and make it harder or inconsistent to work with, as one of the students found out the hard way after she got some raindrops on one of the limbs. For our tillering convenience, the instructors had come up with an ingenious clamp system to secure the bow stave out of some rope and 2×4’s, which I duplicated at home the following week. I don’t think it will be used only for bow making!

Clamp in use. Basically, it’s made up of a flat piece of 2×4 with a small cut out and two pegs at the other side (behind bow). A rope loop is placed through the cut out (helps wedge the stave tight to the wood pegs) and a piece of 2×2 or 2×3 is pushed through the bottom of the rope loop. With your hand push this lever down and secure the tension with in a piece of scrap wood wedged in between. Do not hammer the scrap wood in; it clamps better if pushed down by hand.

After we had carefully hacked out the main shape with the hatchet, while staying about 1/8th of an inch away from all pencil marks, the bow was now ready for rasping and scraping. Using one of the clamp stations, I clamped down my bow and with a farrier’s hoof rasp started scraping off all tool marks right up to the pencil marks, leveled the back of the limbs, and shaped the handle. Most important in this stage is to keep checking progress so as to not go too fast, and to check both edges for symmetry (one limb side should not higher or lower than the other). The limbs are only as thick as their thinnest part, and special care needs to be taken in this regard, especially where the handle tapers off into the limb. From there on it’s pretty simple. The widest and thickest part of the limb is right at the taper of the handle, and from there the shape should gradually get narrower and thinner up to about halfway, to then thicken again to compensate for the skinny tapered tip design. Using mostly my fingers I would run them up and down the limb and feel for thickness irregularities, especially around the knots, and carefully rasp and later scrape them down. The thinnest part of the limb is about halfway, which is where most energy is stored, and therefore the most bend should happen when pulled back to fire.

The thinner middle in this drawing is exaggerated to give you the general idea.

Instructor Sean marking the belly of my bow.

From this time on, the instructors were kept busy and would regularly swing by to check our bows, adding crosses to show where to stay away and squiggles where more wood needed to be removed. This step was quite a challenge as it is hard to see; the differences are minute and were mostly only ‘visible’ by touch. It sure helped that I have experience throwing pottery, as that’s all about seeing with your fingertips too! Interestingly, as our instructors would remind us now and then, we’re still not making a bow – we’re making a bow shaped sculpture! Not until the tillering stage, where the limbs are starting to get flexed, is the bow sculpture slowly transforming into a bow.

Hard at work rasping and shaping the sides and handle of the bow ‘sculpture’.

It’s starting to look like something!

When the limbs of the bow finally start to have a little bend, as tested by gently bending, it finally is tillering time! The first tentative bending is done by putting the tip on something solid like a concrete floor, pushing away on the handle with one hand (and that elbow braced on your hip if needed) – nowhere else – and steadying the upper tip with the other: the wood remembers stress and the wrong pressure in the wrong place can permanently alter the flex of the limb! Now the rasp gets put away and the scraping knife is put to good use. We used knives similar to carving knives, fairly long but with a slight burr added to one edge for efficient scraping. And once again, all tool marks, now from the rasp, are carefully removed and the backs of the limbs are smoothed out. Then it is a matter of carefully removing layers of wood from the belly of the limbs until they started bending more and more, and more evenly. Also at this time we made a bowstring using the Flemish twist technique, and added nock points to the bow tips with a small saw (handmade by three hacksaw blades taped together). Carving or filing nock points works as well; just don’t carve into the back of the bow, only the sides and belly. The string would still be fairly long, so the bow bends shallowly and gently gets accustomed to becoming a bow.

Knock points are added and string is made

With each removal & tillering check, we would string the bow and flex it shallowly about thirty times to exercise the stave so the wood becomes used to the flexing and compression needed for proper bow function. This exercise is also important as the changes just made with scraping take a while for the wood to remember and might not show up in the next tillering if proper exercise is omitted. We tillered both using a tillering stick, and with the help of our instructors and fellow students by putting a foot on the string and pulling the bow stave up while they would squat in front, look & critique. It was very instructive to see many types of trees and bow shapes and strengths and see how the limbs would bend differently from one to the other. The big thing to look for is where does it bend. Where does the limb curve, and where does it not? Ideally, the bow limbs curve most in the middle, with a bit less at the beginning near the handle, and near the end at the nock point. Where it bends too much (it’s thinnest there), wood needs to be removed everywhere else, and where it is too stiff wood should be removed right there. Note that adding wood is not an option! And always check the edges of the bow to make sure they have the same thickness; that it does not slant from one side to the other, as this could introduce weakness and even twist.

Fairly quickly my bow stave was bending well and looking good. Interestingly, the limb with the two knots curved beautifully right from the start. The knot free limb had a reflex which was messing with the tillering, it kept looking flat and stiff. Rather than overcompensate and weakening that spot, the instructor decided it was easier to just heat treat the reflex straight. Which probably looked a whole lot easier than it was. When both limbs had a good bend, and looked even (also check the negative space when strung between stave and string), the bow still was too heavy for me. It drew in the upper forties which I thought is a bit much. But as the tillering was correct, instead of messing with the belly of the bow and making it thinner, which could change the tillering, now the best option is to make it narrower and thus remove from the sides. There is a balance between how thick a bow limb should be and how wide, as a wider bow has more air resistance which needs compensation in strength while thinning makes it weaker. Thus with the lower poundage draw weights it is better to go narrow in width than lose too much thickness. As mentioned before, twice as thick is eight times as strong, so taking off a little belly could quickly be way too much…

Looking for proper bend using the tillering stick: the middle of the left limb looks flat.

Ready for the first arrow!

Finally, the time had come to completely sand the bow (except for the back of course!), measure the right length for the bowstring (about 6 inches from the top if I remember correctly) and string it! Use a brace height of about a hand width (between string at rest and handle) and do not immediately pull to full length, go little bits at a time. Never leave a bow strung longer than it needs to be, it can develop string follow (stays slightly bend when unstrung) and loose strength. And never dry fire a bow, the energy that would otherwise travel with the arrow does not leave and can blow up the bow instead… And then the most satisfying of sounds: the thock of hitting the target with your first arrow!

The bow is still ‘young’ and needs ‘training’; exercise it regularly, shoot with it regularly, and not until it is a couple months old and you feel there is no more tweaking to be done is it time to finish. Oil, varnish or a stain – it does not really matter as long as you like it and it weatherproofs. Smooth the edges if you have not done so already. Carve pretty knock points. Add a leather wrapped handle. But most of all – take your bow and enjoy the great outdoors together!

The end: lots of happy students with their precious sticks! And each and every one looks different…

One last thing: be patient while crafting your bow. Take your time, put it away, come back to it; have a conversation. Read books, talk to bowyers: there are many different styles and techniques, and another way might work better for you. I found this course to be such fun, that I am already scouting our woods for logs to harvest, and with the experience I had enough information to make a quick bow with my son (and the band saw) from a stick harvested a couple days prior. We made it together and you should have seen him, he was so proud to shoot an arrow with a bow he’d made himself…

Simon (at right) with his self bow made from a 2” diameter green stick. Using a bandsaw for general shaping and tillering greatly shortened the time needed to make a bow, this one took about two hours, but also gave much more room for error as it is very quick and easy to take too much off. To save time (and limbs) a blend of modern and traditional techniques seems to work best: rough shaping with the bandsaw, and fine tuning with rasp and knife.

Want to read more?

Traditional Bowyers Bible’s Vol 1-4, Allely et al.; The Lyons Press, 2000
The Art of making Selfbows, Stim Wilcox
The Bow Builder’s Book, Horning ed.; Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 2007
The Heritage of the Longbow, Pip Bickerstaffe; self published UK, 1999

For more information on the Bow Making Workshop. click here.

All photography and drawings by Susan Verberg, 2016.


Categories: SCA news sites

Portrait of Tsar Nicholas II found behind portrait of Lenin

History Blog - Mon, 2016-11-14 23:17

In the summer of 2013, the administration of St. Petersburg’s Primary School No. 206 called in the experts at the Stieglitz Art and Industry Academy to restore a portrait of Lenin that had a substantial damage to the canvas. In the larger than life-sized portrait (nine by six feet), Lenin looks pensively off to the side. Behind him is the Peter and Paul Fortress, the citadel and prison built by Peter the Great which became a symbol of Tsarist oppression akin to the Bastille, and the domes and golden spire of the Peter and Paul Cathedral, the church where all the Russian Tsars from Peter the Great on were buried.

There were multiple holes in the bottom left of the portrait. Restorers noticed a piece of boot on the other side of the canvas showing through the tears. When they removed the frame to examine the back, they found a painted over portrait of Tsar Nicholas II by Ilya Galkin Savich, a painter who was a favorite at the Imperial court. He painted Nicholas the year before he ascended the throne, at least twice immediately after he became Tsar Nicholas II, plus his wife the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna and his mother the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. The newly rediscovered portrait was commissioned the year of Nicholas’ coronation to hang in the assembly hall of the Merchant Society’s Petrovsky Trade and Commercial School. Portraits of Peter the Great and Tsar Paul I, later destroyed by the Soviets, also hung in the assembly hall.

After the 1917 Revolution, the Trade School was turned into an elementary school. In 1924, artist Vladislav Izmailovich was commissioned to paint over the portrait of the last Tsar with a new portrait of Lenin. Izmailovich was a classically trained artist who studied at fine arts in St. Petersburg, Rome, Paris and Berlin. He lived in St. Petersburg at the turn of the century where he painted landscapes, genre scenes and was in demand as a portraitist. Izmailovich also painted decorative interiors at private homes of the wealthy and was hired to restore paintings at St. Michael’s Castle, a former royal palace converted into the army’s engineering school, and at the sumptuous Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo.

His work for the moneyed elites, up to and including the royal family, did not harm his artistic career after the October Revolution. Prominent Marxist figures became subjects of his portraits. He made one of the first portraits of Lenin, a pastel in 1918. Other portrait subjects were founder of the German Communist Party Karl Liebknecht in 1918, a year before he became a socialist martyr in the failed Spartacist uprising, Anatoly Lunacharsky, the first Soviet People’s Commissar of Education, in 1920, and national heroes like chemist Dmitri Mendeleev and Leonid Govorov, defender of Leningrad during World War II. Izmailovich also painted historic scenes and landscapes, managing to survive many a purge and vanishing commissar to work until just before his death in 1959 a few months shy of his 87th birthday.

It’s fascinating to think that this survivor secretly saved a portrait of the Tsar, disguising it instead of destroying it. He painted the portrait of Lenin on the reverse side, painted over the Tsar until the portrait of Nicholas was thoroughly hidden. Izmailovich used layers of greyish-white water-soluble paint that not only allowed future restorers to remove it without damaging the original painting, but actually preserved the original work.

The decision to go through with the restoration process was kicked off by an initial X-ray result, in which “we were shocked, almost to the point of humor, to discover Czar Nicholas II’s head nearly exactly the same size and placement as Lenin’s,” confirming their suspicions that there was a completed full-size portrait beneath the water-soluble paint. The restoration experts used baby soap and water to wash the paint off and reveal a “remarkably intact and preserved” portrait of Czar Nicholas II, signed by the Russian artist Ilya Galkin Savich.

Ms. Pozeluyeva and other experts at Stieglitz believe that in 1924, Izmailovich painted over the Czar Nicholas II work — still in its frame — as an urgent act of “protection” and “sympathy for the Imperial era.”

Izmailovich’s secret tsarist leanings created a unique art work: a massive double-sided formal portrait of two leaders of diametrically opposed regimes painted by two different artists at different times.

After three years of restoration, the double portrait is going on display at the end of the month at the Stieglitz Art and Industry Academy. It will be displayed on a stand with no glass case impeding visitors’ full experience of this remarkable canvas.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

From Split Log to Bow Stave: Day Two

AEthelmearc Gazette - Mon, 2016-11-14 18:33

– my adventures at the two and a half day Bow Making Workshop at Primitive Pursuits in upstate Arnot Forest during prime fall colors…
By Elska á Fjárfella of the Dominion of Myrkfaelinn

The first cut made: the log is cut down to eye level.

Fast forward a year, and the log is peeled, dried and ready to be worked. If you know what you’re doing, it is possible to start with a live log and end with a dry bow in a couple of weeks. Luckily, at the workshop the logs were harvested the year before and dried to perfection. Now it is time to measure. We cut our log to the length of each person from floor to eye; this biometric length seems to work out for most people, and is one reason why a self bow is so personal. Then we established the back of the bow as reference. Do we include that knothole, or go around? We looked for the grain of the wood and marked the center length of our log and with pencil, dot the center width from top to bottom, while following the grain. With a straight grained log this will look like a mostly straight line from top to bottom. With knot holes (from a branch) and curves, this line will curve around & with them, and for optimal strength our bow would have to as well! With the types of trees available a flat belly bow, which is wide & thin, is a good design: the shape helps spread out compression as it is much stronger in depth than in width. The density of the wood and the poundage required give an indication as to how wide the bow should be. Twice as wide is twice as strong, twice as thick is eight times as strong!

The log’s length is measured and the exact center marked in pencil. From the center point, measure and mark a line 2” & 4” above and below. The middle 4 inches makes up the handle, and the 2” above and below will flare towards the outer edge of the bow limbs, and flare down from the handle to the belly of the limbs. Then on either side of the center line we add another line to mark the outside of our bow, about ¾ inch for a 30-40# and 1” for a 40-50# draw weight. Halfway up the bow limb we make another mark, and draw a line from there to the edge of the tip or knock point (which is about a half inch wide). This will make for a tapering shape to the top part of the bow limb, which helps reduce air drag and results in a faster, quieter and/or stronger release.

Then it’s time for some refined whacking of log with a hatchet! Day two started with this quote from the instructor: “all you have to do is cut away the wood that is not part of the bow inside”. Right! To help with coordination, the hatchet is held right below the axe head and only short quick chops are made. To help remove the excess in short chips and not long strips (which could run off right into your bow measurements by mistake) small nicks are chopped first along the path of where you intend to remove wood to cut up the wood fibers and then, layer by layer, wood chips are removed to about 1/8th to 1/4th of an inch around your pencil drawing and about three quarters of an inch for the bow limb depth. The bow is only as big as the deepest tool mark, so the first day of chopping was rather tentative with lots of checking and rechecking of pencil marks. By the end of the day I had the backs of the limbs, the handle and the edges roughly chopped out and was surprised at the level of precision possible with a sharp hatchet and some practice!

Using a hatchet to rough out the bow shape.

A few things to keep in mind:

– Always chop away from the center or mass. As the bow is widest at the beginning of a limb, a chop towards the ends which has a split that runs too far, will most likely miss anything important as the outer limbs taper into the nock.
– Stop regularly to check your marks.
– Keep all planes square: chop a flat belly (the part facing you when shooting) and square off the edges.
– Work on both limbs alternatively, don’t finish one and then start the other, it’s easier to keep them similar if worked on parallel.

And whatever you do, do not touch the back (the part facing away when shooting: visualize a bending person and you’ll “see” where the terminology came from) – once the surface of the back is established either by peeling or scraping the bark it is off limits!

Lots of wood chips are made…

Wood grain is like fiber rope within a tree: just as a large cable made up of lots of small wires is strong enough to moor a ship, the same is true for plant fiber; enough of them together can withstand thunderstorms! But if there is fraying or some sort of damage, then one wind gust can fell a mature tree… and one scrape, nick or dent can do enough damage to make a bow unstable and set a precedence for a fatal crack!

We finished the second day with lunch around the campfire – it was hard to put down the stave and take a break!

To be continued tomorrow….




Categories: SCA news sites

Curtain Theatre stage, secret passageway revealed

History Blog - Sun, 2016-11-13 21:41

The remains of the Curtain Theatre, the Elizabethan playhouse in Shoreditch, north London, where Shakespeare’s Henry V and Romeo and Juliet were first staged, were first discovered by Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) in October 2011 during an exploratory excavation in advance of developement. Built in 1577, the Curtain was the second purpose-built public playhouse in London (The Theatre was the first), and the main staging venue for the plays of Shakespeare between 1597 and 1599. After that it was supplanted by the famous Globe Theatre, and the last recorded play at the Curtain was performed in 1622. Over time the exact location was lost until the MOLA team found it on (or rather under) Hewett Street.

The Curtain was believed to have been dismantled during the Commonwealth — Puritans weren’t keen on the rowdy entertainments of the public theater — but a much wider open-area excavation this year has found that in fact the theater was likely repurposed into a tenement. That has proven a great archaeological boon, because while all that remains today of the Globe and the Rose, two theaters on the South Bank famed for having staged Shakespeare’s plays, are bits and bobs of stonework from the foundations, there’s enough the Curtain left to paint a rich picture of the Elizabeth playhouse, and much of what they’ve found has entirely upended expectations.

Historians previously thought the Curtain was a polygonal structure with a thrust stage, like the more famous theaters that followed it. Archaeologists discovered that in fact it was rectangular building with a rectangular stage. The stage was 14 meters (46 feet) long and five meters (16 feet) deep, a very unusual proportion that may have made it possible to field larger numbers of players for Shakespeare’s busy battle scenes. That means that the prologue of Henry V, which alludes to the theater as a “wooden O,” must have been written after the play’s premier at the Curtain, perhaps for later performances at the Globe. Under the stage archaeologists found the remains of a tunnel that was accessed by doors on either side of the stage. Actors would have used it to exit from one side of the stage and enter from the other side out of view of the audience.

There are remains of brick walls, 1.5 meters (4’9″) at the highest, and even part of the sloping yard made of compacted gravel where the people with the cheapest tickets, known as groundlings, stood in front of the stage. Between the standing room and the more expensive seats in three sides of timber galleries, the theater could accomodate 1,200 people.

Archaeologists have found artifacts like clay pipes, wine bottles, glass beads, a comb, and one tiny broken piece of clay that looks like an egg cup but is the bottom of a bird call, perhaps used for sound effects in plays like Romeo and Juliet where the song a bird interrupts the lovers in their marriage bed. They’ve also found a group of green glazed knobs and a few sherds from money boxes.

Throughout findings, we’ve also been able to tell that The Curtain Theatre is one of earliest Elizabethan playhouses where people actually paid money to see performances and be entertained. We know this because fragments of ceramic money boxes have been found. These fragments are a really exciting find because the pots would have been used to collect the entry fees from theatregoers and then been taken to an office to be smashed and the money counted. This office was known as the ‘box office’, which is actually the origin of the term we still use today!

The Curtain Theatre has been covered now with sand and a protective membrane to keep it secure while the mixed-use development of retail, office space, homes, a park and a performance area is built around it. The new development will be called The Stage, appropriately enough, and has been redesigned in light of the discovery to display the archaeological remains of the Curtain in the new cultural and visitors center.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

From Split Log to Bow Stave: Day One

AEthelmearc Gazette - Sun, 2016-11-13 21:15

– my adventures at the two and a half day Bow Making Workshop at Primitive Pursuits in upstate Arnot Forest during prime fall colors…
By Elska á Fjárfella of the Dominion of Myrkfaelinn.

When my hubbie decided he needed a better bow, he teamed up with Edward of Delftwood to make a longbow from a premade bowstave. It took him about six trips to Syracuse to get her done, and the bow he made is an absolutely gorgeous contrasting color triple layer laminate with a narrow “D” profile, made with plausible period materials and techniques. And while laminating is a period technique (one only has to think of the short, curved horse bow of the Mongol hordes) it’s not what came to my mind when he talked about making a longbow. I’d thought of stone age bows… Norse longbows… the incredible English longbows…

Reading up on the subject I quickly realized that what I like are self bows made from one piece of wood, especially ones with character (also called flaws). I could not find anyone to help learn about making self bows, but fortunately, we live in an area with an active primitive skills group of people (or Ithaca hippies, and do they look the part…). As part of the Primitive Pursuits outdoor classroom, which specializes in kid’s summer camps and after school programs but also has occasional adult weekend workshops, once a year a Bow Making Workshop is offered right here in town! And this year I decided to take the plunge…

Our son Simon checking out the different self bows on display.

With just a couple of common tools like a rasp, a knife and an axe, and the abundance of his surroundings any person could, and can, make a bow strong enough to take a deer. Actually, a metal rasp, knife and axe is not even necessary, as one of our teachers demonstrated: he’d made a bow with a stone axe and a flint scraper he’d made himself, as well as creek sand as both file and sanding paper and it was completely indistinguishable from the bows made using modern tools! Like Europe, the American northeast has abundant hardwood forests with many suitable trees, and making a bow suitable to hunt from locally harvested materials is not out of our reach at all, even for us modern people!

First things first. We started the workshop with a sing-along to honor the trees and say thanks. Not something I am used to, but nice in a graceful kind of way. Then our two instructors introduced themselves: Justin, barefooted and wearing an inside out sheepskin vest and Sean, also barefooted and pledged to eat and work from and with local materials only (he had a smoked squirrel for lunch). And while normally feeling a bit out of norm as homesteaders etc, here I was likely one of the more normal ones of the dozen and a half students! I felt right at home…

Talking about wood.

Then we got right into bow making. As the bones of a bow is the wood, good care needs to be taken to find a suitable log. As a general rule, dense hardwoods like hickory, maple, oak, ash, and elm make good bows. Conifers like pine do not, and softwoods like willow and basswood do not either. Of course, the exception to this rule is yew, which is a low density conifer and makes awesome bows. But it also needs fairly specific strategies to work well with and is therefore not recommended for the beginner.

Next up is the quality of the wood. Of course, ideal would be a perfectly straight 6 to 7 foot, knot free trunk to be split into log staves. But who’s got one of those… Making a bow is much more forgiving that I expected and if reasonable care is taken in having a mostly straight, mostly knot free log, apparently it will be fine. What is to be avoided are twist and bends, especially for the beginner. A little twist could be worked around, and a reflex or deflex bend could be removed with heat, but these are more advanced techniques. Know your limitations and keep looking to find a log to go with your comfort level.

Demonstrating how to safely remove bark.

Our logs were cut between 6-7 feet (to fit the instructor’s truck bed). A 4-6” diameter log could be split in half for two staves, using a wedge, a mallet and some splitting wedges to keep the split going. When it is split wood glue is put on the ends. Paint and beeswax works as well, the advantage of wood glue being that it also works under tension (it’s stretchy) and can sometimes prevent cracks that might otherwise have happened anyway. The logs are dried in a cool dry place, like a garage or basement. Whatever you do, stay away from the hot woodstove!

About half of the split logs the students could choose from had the bark already removed as they were harvested in the summer, which was very convenient. Removing the bark facilitates drying and also prevents bark beetles from taking up home and destroying the potential stave. Some people advise getting winter wood as the wood is driest that time of year, others advise getting summer wood as the bark peels off easily. The grain of the wood gives a bow its strength and flexibility, but only if the back is one continuous growth ring from top to bottom. With the types of trees mentioned, the wood right below the bark is the wood used for making a bow, and baring the growth ring is easy if the bark is loose and can be peeled right off. The exceptions are locust and osage orange, where the outer sapwood needs to be removed and only the inner core is used. If the bark is not loose, it can also be carefully peeled first with a drawknife and finished with a scraping knife. Using a drawknife is an acquired skill, so practice first on some scrap wood until you get a feel for what’s happening. Whichever way you choose, always make sure to peel away from knots so as not to violate the grain curving around imperfections. Grain does not tend to go straight, so keep a close eye on what’s going on and always, always follow the ‘yellow brick’ grain.

End of day one, each with our own split log. I choose a piece of shagbark hickory.

To be continued tomorrow…..



Categories: SCA news sites

Unofficial Crown Tourney Court Report

East Kingdom Gazette - Sun, 2016-11-13 10:35
On the 5th of November, in the 51st year of the Society, on chilly morning in the Province of Malagentia, those who sought to be Heirs to Brion III and Anna III, as determined by a Crown Tournament, and those others who had gathered to watch and serve, came together before Their Majesties. The combatants and consorts lined up in a great Procession to each speak with the Crown, each couple presenting themselves in turn. However, when Ameria Browne and her Champion presented themselves, the Crown announced that Ameria’s station was not found suitable. Their Majesties opened Their Court and presented the words of Their forebearers, Brennan II and Caoilfhionn II, and named her a Lady of the Court and Awarded her Arms, dated to November 7th, A.S. 50, and presented her a scroll to commemorate this with calligraphy and words by Mistress Rhonwen glyn Conwy and illumination by Miriam bat Pessah. At the end of the Procession, Their Majesties called together Their populace. They then called for Doña Camille Desjardins and spoke of the exceptional artwork she produced as a scribe and said that such surpassing skill should be recognised. They then called for Their Order of the Laurel and set Doña Camille on vigil to consider whether she would accept the accolade of Peerage in that Order. Their Majesties felt that the Order was still be incomplete and so His Majesty, with a look of consideration, strode into the gathered crowd and took by the elbow Sir Michael of York, to that one’s look of great shock. Sir Michael knelt before the thrones and he, too, for his great skill and research into storytelling, was offered to opportunity to consider whether he would join that ancient and noble Order in Court that evening. Their being no further business of the moment, the Crown spoke to the assembled combatants and then the tourney began. As the dust of combat settled, Master Ioannes Aurelius Serpentius stood alone. Their Majesties brought forward the Coronets of the Prince and Princess of the East. At Master Ionness’ request, his consort and inspiration, Mistress Ro Honig von Sommerfeldt, was crowned first, making her Princess of the East. King Brion, Queen Anna, and Princess Honig then crowned Ionness the new Prince of the East. There was a pause then, so that the Heirs could prepare themselves for Court. Court then resumed, but found much solemnity in the first piece of business. Their Majesties asked for a moment of silence for Lord Wulfgang Gruenwald, who had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. “To absent friends.” The moment over, His Highness Ionness was invested as the Crown Prince of Tir Mara in accordance with Kingdom tradition. Her Highness Honig was invested as the Crown Princess of Tir Mara. Both were given capelets with the arms of the Crown Principality. Their Majesties called for Master Ávaldr Valbjarnarson, who fought Prince Ionness in the finals, and named him Admiral of the Armies. The Ladies of the Rose then came forward and offered tokens to those who had impressed them during the day. Duchess Ethedreda’s token went to Baroness Mari Clock van Hoorne. Countess Elsepth’s token was given to Baron Sigurthr VigurHafn. Countess Mara’s token went to Lady Vasia Von Königsburg. Duchess Thyra gave her token to Sir Matthew des Arden. Master Ávaldr Valbjarnarson received Duchess Avelina’s token. Duchess Katherine gave two tokens, one to Baron Rory MacLellan and another to Lord Richard Crowe. Jarl Valgard Stonecleaver accepted Duchess Brenwen’s token. Countess Svava gave her token to Sir Edward MacGyver dos Scorpus. Countess Violante gave her token to Prince Ionness. Princess Honig’s token went to Lady Solveig Bjarnardottir. Queen Anna then called for the Shield of Chivalry from its current bearer, Sir Wilhelm von Ostenbrucke. Sir Wilhelm was, sadly, called away for the day but the shield was brought forward by his wife and inspiration, Mistress Vienna de la Mer. Her Majesty then called for Sir Hrafn Bonesetter and named him the newest bearer of the Shield of Chivalry. The Crown called for Mistress Mercedes de Calafia and accepted her to another term as Kingdom Seneschal. The King and Queen then called for the children of the East to attend them. As has become Their custom, they set before the children a quest to learn more about the SCA while receiving a toy. Their Majesties called for their Earl Marshal, Sir Jibril al Dakhil, who may have denied he was there before skipping up the aisle, and asked that he speak to the children of the ways of chivalry and combat. Those new to the Society, attending their first events, were called forward and given tokens that they might remember the day with fondness in the future. Next, the event stewards – Lord Nicolas de Wyntere and Baroness Molly Schofield – were called forward and thanked for the wonderful event they put together. Lord Nicolas and Baroness Molly then thanked Talia of Malagentia for her work with the dayboard. Their Majesties summoned Murtagh O’Kelly and spoke of his fighting, garbmaking, runecraft, and boat-making, and felt these things all very worthy. They Awarded him Arms and gave Lord Murtagh a scroll to remember the day, a woodblock print by Mistress Renye Wurm, with words and calligraphy by Mistress Nest verch Tangwistel. Lijsbet von Catwick was called forward. The King and Queen spoke of her work as an herbalist and preparer of fine foods and shaped sugar. They then asked the Order of the Silver Brooch to stand and made Lijsbet and member of that Order and also Awarded her Arms. She was given a scroll to commemorate this, illuminated by Mistress Agatha Wanderer, calligraphed by His Lordship Gwilliam Kynith, with words by Mistress Aneleda Falconbridge and Anna Bijns. The Order of the Silver Brooch not complete, Their Majesties requested the presence of Lady Elgiva Wilhelm. For her work as a tailor and cook, They named her a Companion of that Order, giving her a scroll crafted by Baroness Marieta Charay. Next, the Crown called for Aesa Ormstunga. For her skill in rapier and service to that community as a marshal for Malagentia and at Great Northeastern War, she was inducted into the Order of the Silver Rapier. She received a scroll penned by Lady Aesa feilinn Jossursdottir. Their Majesties then had read a scroll for Conner MacSeamus O’Neal awarding him the Order of the Maunche. Lord Conner was not present, but he had been inducted into the said Order at K&Q Rapier Champions on October 22nd, A.S. 51. The scroll was made by Lord Vettorio Antonello. Titus Claudius Silvanus was called before the Crown, who spoke of his skill fighting in both the Birka bear pit and on the Unbelted Champions team, and named him a Companion of the Order of the Silver Tyger. To remember the day, he was given a scroll prepared by Lady Myrun Leifsdottir, with words by Mistress Alys Mackyntoich. King Brion and Queen Anna then requested the attendance of Lord Brenden Crane. For his work documenting the events of the East Kingdom for all to see, and teaching those skills, he was named a Companion of the Silver Wheel and received a scroll crafted by Lady Svea the Short-Sighted. Her Majesty then called for Jarl Thorvald Halversson called Thorson and thanked him for his friendship and “being you”. She took a ring from Her finger and presented this token to him. Their Majesties then called for Lord Samuel Peter DeBump called Speedbump. They spoke of his skill as a combat archer, his dedication, skill, and teaching, and his time as a regional marshal and found all these things worthy. They asked the Order of the Golden Mantle to stand, named him a Companion of the same, and gave to him a scroll crafted by Boyer Aleksei Dmitriev. The Crown then requested the answer to the question set before Sir Michael of York. He agreed that he would accept a place in the Order of the Laurel. The Order was called forward, and words from the worthies of the peerage were read. Duke Kenric aet Essex read the words of Duke Brennan mac Fearghus for the Chivalry. Duchess Thyra Eiriksdottir spoke for the Roses. Master Frasier MacLeod brought the words of Master Nataliia Anastasiia Evgenova Sviatoslavina vnuchka for the Order of Defense. (There may be rumours that he kneeled so he could properly convey her words.) Countess Svava Þorgeirsdóttir spoke for the Pelican. Lastly, Mistress Anne of Framlingham spoke for the Order of the Laurel. Sir Michael was then outfitted in the regalia of the Order. He was given a cloak, a hood, and a pin. That finished, he renewed his oath of fealty to the Crown. Lastly, he was given a scroll with calligraphy and illumination by Mistress Eleanor Catlyng, words by Mistress Aildreda de Tamwurthe, and seals by Mistress Nest verch Tangwistel. That business completed, Their Majesties called for the answer to the question set before Doña Camille Desjardins. She agreed to accept a place in the Order of the Laurel but first needed to be released from her apprenticeship. Mistress Bryn de Luna, Camille’s grand-Laurel, released her in the absence of her own Laurel, Mistress Carolyne de la Pointe. That finished, words were spoken of Camille’s character. Sir Edward MacGyver dos Scorpus spoke for the Chivalry. Duchess Katherine Stanhope read the words of Countess Marguerite ingen Lachlainn, speaking for the Order of the Rose. Master Frasier MacLeod spoke for the Order of Defense. Colonel Christian Woolfe spoke for the Pelican. Finally, Mistress Bryn de Luna spoke for the Laurel. Camille was then bedecked in the regalia of her Order. She was given a set of garters, a medallion, a cloak, and a wreath that had belonged to her Laurel, Mistress Carolyne. Mistress Camille then offered her fealty to the Crown and was then given a scroll illuminated by Mistress Ro Honig von Somerfeldt with words and calligraphy by Lady Christiana Crane. Their Majesties then asked the people of Malagentia to stand and thanked them and offered Their gratitude for the wonderful event they put together. Princess Honig then stood and, tears in her eyes, thanked her family and the people of Malagentia for the day. There being no further business, Court was concluded and Their Majesties and Their Highnesses processed from the hall. These are the events of the day as I recall them. My thanks to the people of Malagentia, the guards and retainers, the heralds and scribes, the combatants and consorts, and all those who made the day the event it was. For Crown and College, Pray know I remain, Master Rowen Cloteworthy
Filed under: Court Tagged: court report, Crown Tourney

Conserving The Death of Buddha

History Blog - Sat, 2016-11-12 23:56

The depiction of the death of the Buddha surrounded by the inconsolable grief of beings, human and animal, who have yet to achieve enlightenment and the detachment from earthly desires, has a long, rich tradition in Asian art. Hanabusa Itchō’s version, painted in 1713 during the Edo period, is done in the animated, dynamic style characteristic of his work. He was known for his keen observation of daily life and for biting parodies, one of which got him exiled for 12 years when he chose the mistress of the shogun as a subject for satire. He returned to Edo in 1710 after the death of shogun he’d offended, and quickly picked up where he’d left off.

His The Death of Buddha was hugely famous during the Edo period. It belonged to a Zen temple in Tokyo which is believed to have displayed it once a year during Nehan-e (Nirvana Day), the Buddhist holiday celebrating the death of the Buddha and his passing into Mahaparinirvana, for more than 150 years. Pilgrims traveled to the temple just to see the painted scroll as viewing it was believed to be good karma.

The ownership history has a gap between 1850 and 1886. At some point before the latter date, it was acquired by Ernest Fenollosa, an American professor at Tokyo Imperial University who was an avid art historian and collector of Japanese art. In 1886, he sold his entire collection to Boston doctor Charles Goddard Weld (former Massachusetts governor William Weld is a scion of the family) conditional on its eventually going to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston where Fenollosa had attended art school. Weld bequeathed it to the MFA Boston after his death in 1911.

The scroll hasn’t been on view since 1990 for its own protection. A massive piece at six feet wide and 10 feet tall, it’s the largest scroll in the museum collection and conservation for such a large, delicate piece is extremely challenging. Adding to the logistically difficulties, the scroll hasn’t been remounted since 1850 when it was still at the Zen temple in Tokyo. Because scrolls have unique pressures — they’re rolled, mounts regularly fail or being to tug, tear and pull at the painting — they’re usually remounted every century or so.

The museum began planning the complex conservation of The Death of Buddha three years ago. Active conservation began in the spring of this year in the MFA Boston laboratory. Four conservators, two from the MFA Boston and two from the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery which has an exceptional collection of Asian art and is currently being renovated allowing East Asian painting experts Andrew Hare and Jiro Ueda to join in the conservation of one the great scroll paintings of the Edo period. It is truly a conservation dream team. Three of the four, lead conservator Philip Meredith and both of the Freer experts, did the traditional ten-year apprenticeships at registered conservation studios required by Japanese government regulation for the conservation of Japan’s cultural patrimony. Meredith was only the second westerner to complete the decade-long apprenticeship.

In August, the scroll and conservation team moved to the Asian Painting Gallery to give the public the rare opportunity to watch the painstaking work in progress in an exhibition called Conservation in Action: Preserving Nirvana. The scroll had to be dismantled from mount screws to linings to silk borders. After cleaning, consolidation, crease flattening, removal of old linings, replacement with new linings and the reassembling of every part, the scroll must be stretch dried on a custom karibari drying board 18 feet long.

It’s in the home stretch now, but conservation still proceeds apace. Visitors to the MFA Boston galleries can view the team at work until January 16th, 2017. The rest of us can get a glimpse into this extraordinary labor of love and expertise in the following videos.

A fascinating overview of the conservation process:

Timelapse video of the conservation team applied temporary facing to the painting:

Here the team applies layers of protective paper, humidifying the work and removing the temporary facing. Then they turn it face down and remove old linings from the creases so that they can brush out the creases and re-flatten the painting.

In this last timelapse video, the conservators remove all the old lining paper from the back of the painting, lifting it with bamboo sticks and tweezing off the fibers that remain. They replace the old lining with fresh Mino washi, a traditional Japanese mulberry paper that is on UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage, adhered with wheat starch paste.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Beer recreated from 18th c. shipwreck yeast

History Blog - Fri, 2016-11-11 23:56

Conservators at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in Launceston, Tasmania, Australia’s largest regional museum, have used samples of what is believed to be the world’s oldest surviving beer to create a modern brew from 18th century microorganisms.

The bottles were discovered in the shipwreck of the Sydney Cove, a small merchant vessel carrying alcohol, food, textiles and livestock from Calcutta to Port Jackson (modern-day Sydney) in 1797. On February 9th, the ship was caught in a storm and began to take on water. The captain decided to deliberately ground the Sydney Cove on the shore of Preservation Island, Tasmania. The full crew survived and after stashing all the cargo they could salvage, 17 of them set out for Port Jackson in the ship’s longboat, becoming the first Europeans to cross the Bass Strait between Tasmania and mainland Australia. Their bad luck held, however, and they got into another wreck off Ninety Mile Beach, Victoria, a full 400 miles from their destination. They had to walk the coast all that way to finally reach Port Jackson. By the time they got there in May, only three of the 17 were still alive.

The eighth oldest shipwreck in Australian waters, the Sydney Cove was rediscovered in 1977 and excavated by marine archaeologists from the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service from 1991 to 1994. They recovered 26 glass bottles of beer from the ship’s hold, as well as bottles of wine, brandy and gin. The artifacts were sent to the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery where two samples were drawn from one of the beer bottles and kept in storage.

Museum conservator David Thurrowgood found a forgotten sealed bottle of beer from the shipwreck two years ago. As a chemist, he was intrigued at the prospect of investigating microorganisms that might still be living in the beer. He extracted a sample with a syringe but found no critters alive. The two samples drawn in the 1990s, on the other hand, were more productive. Thurrowgood and a team of experts from Australia, France, Germany and Belgium were able to revive five strains of yeast from the samples, and several different species of bacteria.

DNA testing of the yeast strains found they are related to yeast found in beers brewed in Trappist monasteries. Researchers also plan to analyse the DNA of the other microbes discovered in the samples to discover more about pre-Industrial diets.

“People talk about autoimmune diseases and other issues [relating to] the fact that we have quite a clean diet today, whereas in the past we had a diet full of microbes,” Thurrowgood said. “This is one of the few chances we’ve got to actually test those microbes, and actually see what they were.”

Meanwhile, one of the yeast cultures drawn from the Sydney Cove beer has been used to create a new batch named Preservation Ale after the island where the ship ran ground. They used an English beer recipe from the late 18th century to recreate a brew as close as possible to the original.

“It’s got quite a sweet taste — some people have described it as almost a cider or fresh taste — which has come from the yeast,” said project leader David Thurrowgood….

The researchers also uncovered a historical account of a celebrated English beer from the time that was known for its sweet, cider-like flavor, similar to the beer brewed from the reanimated yeast.

“That was quite a surprise, but having found that reference, and to have that particular taste come out in the beer … it showed that the beer did actually have a distinctive taste at the time that we’re only rediscovering now,” Thurrowgood told Live Science.

Only a few bottles have been brewed for research purposes, so for now there’s no chance of the public getting a sip of this cider-like beer. Several companies have expressed interest in making a brew for wider public consumption, however. Meanwhile, researchers plan to study the wine and other alcohol found on the shipwreck. They will examine the red wine to compare it to modern red wine and to study any microorganisms within.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Supreme Number One imperial musket slays at auction

History Blog - Thu, 2016-11-10 23:11

An imperial musket custom-made for the Qianlong Emperor (1711-1799) and marked with the unique ranking of “Supreme Grade, Number One” sold at a Sotheby’s London auction on November 9th for a £1,985,000 ($2,638,000). This is the first Chinese firearm with an imperial reign mark to appear at auction, and the bidding was fierce. The winning bid, almost half a million pounds above the high estimate, was made by an Asian private collector.

The Qianlong Emperor was an avid collector of art and had a great interest in Western technology. Western firearms captured his fancy not for waging war, but for hunting. Their great length required a tripod for shooting, which is not the most convenient weaponry for battle. Its firepower was far more effective than a bow and arrow for hunting, however, and the stationary position was fine once the target was acquired.

The Qianlong Emperor, one of the most powerful Sons of Heaven and the longest-lived and de-facto longest-reigning emperor in Chinese history, deeply admired his grandfather, the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1662-1722), and like him, was proud of his Manchu ancestry and at the same time keenly interested in Western technology. Both were intent on keeping in touch with a Manchu life style, organized large-scale training hunts at Rehe (Jehol), Chengde, northeast of Beijing, with soldiers from the Eight Banners, to keep their troops well trained for military campaigns, and prided themselves on their own hunting, riding and shooting skills. Organized hunting trips were also a way of building closer relations with Mongolian princes who usually participated in these hunts. While traditionally, hunting would have been done with bow and arrow, or with spears, the advent of Western firearm technology sparked off the production of muskets also in the imperial workshops.

The emperor’s love of hunting was well known and represented in art. Giuseppe Castiglione, the Italian Jesuit missionary who became a court artist who famously sculpted the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac for a water clock at the Old Summer Palace that were looted by the British in 1860 and wound up in European collections, depicted the Qianlong Emperor calling deer with a large party in a hilly terrain. One anonymous court painter captures the emperor shooting deer with a musket on a tripod much like the one that sold at auction. There’s an even a poem written by the emperor himself when he was 88 years old about how he could still shoot a deer with perfect aim.

The Supreme Number One matchlock musket was one of very few made by the Manufacture Department of the Imperial Household for the Qianlong Emperor using the most expensive materials. The stock is elm wood. The barrel is cast iron inlaid with gold, silver and copper foliage decoration. The muzzle is also cast iron and is inlaid with the gold mark of the Qianlong Emperor. Behind the breech, visible only if the musket is taken apart, is the inscription “te deng di yi” (Supreme Grade Number One). It comes with its original tripod of rare zitan wood (red sandalwood native to India) with pointy horn-shaped feet made of cast iron.

The Supreme Grade Number One designation is unique among the imperial muskets that have survived. It is likely connected to six imperial muskets now in the collection of Beijing’s Palace Museum. They have individual names that appear on a list of seven in the Qing-era record Collected Statutes of the Qing Dynasty with Illustrations. They were likely given graded as well, although the inscriptions are not extant.

Chinese Actor Wang Gang recites the Qianlong Emperor’s poem on hunting deer with one of his prized muskets:

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Autocrats Colloquium: Topics, Parking and Restaurant Map

East Kingdom Gazette - Thu, 2016-11-10 15:45

The Autocrats Colloquium will be held this Saturday in Arlington, MA.  Attendees should wear regular clothes, not garb, to listen to SCA experts offer their insights on what an autocrat needs to know.  A dayboard is not being served – although coffee and tea will be available.

There will be an hour lunch break.  The map posted below shows restaurants in easy walking distance and includes their websites.  It also contains directions on parking.

The topics being covered and their presenters are:

  • Real World and SCA Laws – Mistress Katherine Barr
  • Food:  Options and Considerations – Meister Dietrich
  • Registration and Gate – Mistress Eleanor Catlyng
  • Guide to Jewish Holidays – Lord Gundormr Dengir
  • Publicizing Events –  Baroness Anastasia Guta
  • Making New People Welcome – Lady Aaradyn Ghyoot
  • Considerations for Children – Mistress Leonete d’Angley
  • Special Needs – Mistress Eleanor Catlyng
  • Hotel Events – Mistress Fia Kareman
  • Camping Events –  Lord Ulfr Steinsson

For more information, see the event listing on the East Kingdom website.

Filed under: Events

Heronter Demo Report: The Fredonia Maker Faire

AEthelmearc Gazette - Thu, 2016-11-10 11:26

by The Honorable Fool, Dagonell the Juggler

It was a very blustery day. Winnie the Pooh and Piglet left their homes in the Hundred Acre Wood and… Oops, wrong story. It was a very blustery day. My wife and I left our home at dawn to drive to the State University of NY at Fredonia to start setting up our demo for the first Fredonia Maker Faire.

Baron Jacob of Dunmore.

It was originally planned that we would be outside the new science building so fighters and fencers could fight on the lawn. A couple of the officials decided it was too cold and windy and rainy and just too darn blustery. So they got a couple of volunteers to help us re-pack our stuff and transport it all to the Williams Center and help us re-set up. The volunteers all wore bright yellow t-shirts to identify themselves. Naturally, the exhibitors promptly renamed them Makers’ Minions. With their aid, we were fully set-up before the faire opened.

The faire was originally supposed to be just the Science Building, but they got so many exhibitor responses that they extended the faire into the next building and there were exhibits in both the Science Building and the Williams Center. Nearly 100 exhibits in all. We got the second floor of the Williams Center all to ourselves. The main hall in the Williams Center is two stories tall. The second floor wraps around it like a ring with pillars forming niches all along the balcony side. The organizers put up an extra sign announcing “The Shire” was upstairs.

Click to view slideshow.

A&S display at the Maker Faire.

We draped banners off the balconies to hang down into the central hall. We set up an armor display in the first niche along with a chainmail making demo. In the second niche, we set up miscellaneous display objects including embroidery, garb, heraldry and a medieval cookbook. In the third niche, we set up a calligraphy and illumination display with a illumination demo. When the fencers arrived, they took over the fourth niche for their weapons and gear.

Master Otfrid Ammerthaler.

Master Otfrid Ammerthaler and m’lady Artemisa da Manarola arrived from the Rhydderich Hael just before the official opening. Lord Coinneich Mac an Leigh and THL Clarissa da Svizzera from Thescorre came shortly afterward. The doors opened and we had a slow but steady stream of fair-goers. We announced the teaching of a few simple country dances, and Artemisia, the Hael’s dance mistress, led the audience through them.

When our fencers, Lord Bjorn Einarsson and Baron Jacob of Dunmoore arrived and armored up, I announced from the balcony that there had been a falling out amongst the king’s musketeers and matters were to be settled by the sword. This was not choreographed, nor rehearsed nor pre-determined. Skill alone would decide the winner. Within two minutes nearly everyone from the hall below was now upstairs packed solidly from wall to wall awaiting the combat. Jacob and Bjorn gave a wonderful display of skill. When they stopped, we had dozens of people by our tables, trying on jackets, helms, coifs, surcoats, gauntlets, swords and bucklers while we talked about the SCA.

At 4PM, the fair closed and we started packing up. We had brought 40 flyers. We had 8 left. We had been interviewed by the Chautauqua Star, who had come to write an article on the fair itself. The issue came out Nov. 4th and is still available. Check your local grocery store for a copy if you live in Western NY. A tired few headed for home with our deepest thanks. The majority of us headed up to Dimitri’s in Dunkirk for Greek cuisine for a meal before going home to plan for next year’s Maker Faire.

All photos and video by m’lady Artemisa da Manarola.

Categories: SCA news sites

Refill the Royal Toybox

East Kingdom Gazette - Thu, 2016-11-10 10:19

Unto the People of the East, greetings!

The Royal Toybox has become a popular feature of court, made possible by the generosity of the artisans and craftsmen of Our populace.  We hope you and the children have enjoyed both the chase of reigns past and the learning opportunities recently.  Supplies in the box are running low and We would ask for donations to refill it.  Ideal donations are small, period-appropriate toys and games, without too many small pieces, suitable for boys and girls alike.

In Service to the East,
Brion Rex and Anna Regina

Donations can be delivered to the royal room at any event or given directly to their Majesties or retainers. Please include a note with the names of the donators.

Filed under: Announcements, Youth Activities Tagged: royal wishes, toybox

Rare Viking toolbox discovered at Borgring

History Blog - Wed, 2016-11-09 21:10

Excavations of the 10th century Borgring fortress discovered on the Danish island of Zealand in 2014 are still in the early stages. A few test pits were dug in 2014 in areas believed to be, based on initial laser and geomagnetic surveys of the site, the fortress gates. Large oak timbers, blackened by fire, confirmed that there had indeed been gates there and that the fort had had a catastrophic fire shortly after its construction. Few artifacts were found. Only a single axe head was reported, that I could find.

That record has changed dramatically thanks to the discovery of a rare Viking toolkit at the east gate. Volunteer metal detectorists Kent and Knuds scanned the area and got a loud signal from their machines. Archaeologists could tell there was something in the soil there, and since the signal indicated the metal wasn’t in the top layer (where it could easily have been a piece of modern farm equipment) but rather deeper down in the layers of archaeological interest, they decided to remove the whole block of soil encasing whatever had set off the metal detectors.

Wrapped in plastic to keep it together, the entire soil block was transported to the Zealand University Hospital in Køge to get a CT scan. The hospital scanner confirmed that there was a group of iron objects inside that looked like they might be tools including spoon drills (used to drill holes in wood) and a drawplate (used to produce thin wire for jewelry). The pieces appeared to be laid out in careful order, suggesting they weren’t dumped or lost. They were likely kept in a toolbox whose wood has now decayed.

Archaeologists spent two days excavating the soil block and found 14 iron objects. There were pieces that were not visible on the scan because they were too corroded or their iron content was too low to register. The more corroded objects cannot be identified at this time; conservation may help make it clear what their original purpose was, and now that they’ve been removed from the soil block, the objects will be individually X-rayed to get a better idea of their design. Archaeologist Nanna Holm suspects one of the spoon drills may actually be a pair of tweezers or pliers, for example.

This box of tools would have been extremely valuable in the Viking era. Only a few of them have ever been discovered. If a tool was broken or became unusable for any reason, they were melted down and made into something else practical, not thrown out. The discovery of a fully loaded toolbox by the east gate is highly significant within the context of Borgring itself, because it’s the first evidence that people actually lived there.

The craftsmen presumably lived very well, whether he used the east gate as a home or a workshop. It was 30 to 40 square metres of space and had its own fireplace–and of course, the toolbox with the valuable iron tools.

So why did he leave the premises and his toolbox?

Perhaps because at some point, the gate simply collapsed, says Holm.

“We found the tools under the posts, so there’s some evidence that the gate collapsed, and it probably did so because they were rotten, old, and unstable. We only discovered the outline of the posts, suggesting that the rest simply rotted away. Then the tools got buried until we discovered now,” she says.

It seems that the fire that struck the east and north gates did not destroy the fort. It was put out before the gates could collapse and the fire spread to the rest of the fortress. After the fire, two layers of clay were built up inside the gate. There was a fireplace in each layer, and the toolbox was unearthed from the newer of the two clay layers. That means the craftsman who lived or worked at the east gate did so after the fire.

The tools are being studied and conserved now. Next year, conservation should be complete and the toolkit will go on public display.

Timelapse of the excavation of the toolbox:

A journalist joins in the excavation:

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Rare dodgy nickel found in Deadwood

History Blog - Tue, 2016-11-08 22:28

Coin experts have identified a rare example of an 1883 Racketeer Nickel in a group of coins excavated in the historic Chinatown of Deadwood, South Dakota. The coin was discovered in July of 2001 during one of four excavations of Deadwood’s Chinatown district. It was one of more than 200 coins found over the course of four years, most of them Chinese brass pieces. They were all sent to the South Dakota Archeological Research Center in Rapid City to be catalogued only to return to Deadwood in 2009 when City Hall got a new storage facility and laboratory for historic artifacts.

Nobody realized there was a very special coin in the mix until this year. Deadwood Historic Preservation Office had sent photos of the Chinese coins to numismatists Dr. Margie Akin and her husband Kevin Akin last year. They were able to identify all but 16 of them from the pictures. In September of this year, the Akins went to Deadwood where they were asked to examine the 16 mystery coins in person. That done, City Archivist Mike Runge, who is in charge of the city’s vast college of documentary and archaeological materials, showed them a small group of US coins that had been found during the digs.

“It’s a common joke among archeologists that the best thing you find, the most important discoveries, are made in the last hour of the last day,” Margie Akin said recently from California. “I’ve seen many cases where that has been true.”

And it came true again. [...]

“When we found it, I held it up and said, ‘Margie, look at this. A Racketeer Nickel, oh my God!’” Kevin recalled. “It was a bit of a Eureka moment.”

What makes the 1883 Racketeer Nickel such a treasure is that it looked a lot more expensive than it was. It was close in size to a $5 gold piece, and it was the first base metal coin to have a Liberty-head design. The Mint also muddied the waters by only indicating the coin’s value with the Roman numeral “V.” The word “cents” appeared nowhere.

This was an open invitation to fraudsters they accepted with alacrity. A bit of cheap gold plating on the new nickel, and voila! That’s how you make five dollars out of five cents.

U.S. Treasury officials denied there was a problem. But a local newspaper story at the time told a different tale.

“The new nickel five-cent piece is the subject of much discussion in the treasury department,” the Feb. 22, 1883, Black Hills Daily Times reported. “Treasurer Gilfillan carries one in his vest pocket. One of these coins is plated with gold, and its resemblance on one side to a five-dollar gold piece is quite striking. The broad ‘V’ on the opposite side is unlike the device on any other coin, and of course should be an effectual barrier to its fraudulent use.”

The same newspaper article stated that Mint Director Horatio Burchard, “ridicules the idea of any successful counterfeit of gold being made from the new nickel. He said that a proposition to suspend coinage of the new piece has not been made, and so far as he knows none is contemplated.”

Coinage was not suspended, but less than a month later, the Secretary of the Treasury ordered that the word “cents” be added to the reverse of the 1883 nickels underneath the V. They could no longer be passed off to the unobservant as gold five dollar pieces, but the resourceful grifters of Deadwood found another use for them.

Three months later, the Daily Times reported that well-heeled merchants and miners of Deadwood had found a new use for the Racketeer Nickel.

“A number of the toney young men about town are wearing cuff buttons made of the new nickels,” the newspaper reported. “They are highly plated with gold, and to the uninitiated look for all the world like genuine five-dollar gold pieces.”

The one found at Deadwood has no market value — something like 10 cents at most, the Akins say, because of its very poor condition — but its link to the famously rowdy past of the Black Hills mining town give it great historical worth.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

Huge Gallo-Roman villa found in Brittany

History Blog - Mon, 2016-11-07 23:54

A preventative excavation of a site in the village of Langrolay-sur-Rance near Dinan in Brittany, northwestern France, has unearthed a huge Gallo-Roman villa. Archaeologists from France’s National Institute for Preventative Archaeology (INRAP) began excavating the 2.3 hectare site, the future location of a subdivision, in July 2016. They discovered multiple structures arranged in a u-shape around a central courtyard with colonnaded galleries on three sides. This was the pars urbana (the residential section) of a great villa and this section alone covered 1,500 square meters (16,000 square feet).

The main part of the house was built on a plateau with a beautiful view of the Rance river. The secondary structure faced south and was constantly flooded by sunlight. The third structure may have been used as stable. The courtyard and areas surrounding the buildings were landscaped gardens. Coins found at the villa indicate it was originally constructed in the 1st century A.D., it was altered and expanded over the years and was in use at least through the 4th century.

The most impressive testament to how exceptionally luxurious this villa was is its personal bath complex. At more than 400 square meters (4,300 square feet), it included a shallow foot bath, a warm pool, a cool pool, and a large caldarium, the hottest room in the complex, that had both a hot tub and a sauna. Bathers would start out with the foot bath, then take a dip in the cold and warm pools. Once washed, they’d move on to the caldarium to work up a proper sweat. They’d wash again and get a massage in the warm room and finish with a pore-closing cold bath. The private homes of the rich often had bathing facilities, but such a large, complex one is rare.

Unlike the rest of the villa of which only the foundations and patches of concrete floors have survived, walls and floors of the bath complex are extant, including the tile stacks that raised the floor to allow the hypocaust system to heat the warm rooms. The walls were decorated with frescoes inlaid with shell, a characteristic Armorican style developed beginning in the 3rd century A.D. White, red, green, blue or yellow shells of different species would be embedded in fresh mortar to create intricate designs. Because the mortar had to be wet when the shells were applied, many workers applied themselves to the task at the same time. A few fragments of decorative shell have been found at 23 ancient sites in western France, but only two of those were large enough to make it possible to piece together the pattern of decoration. The remains discovered at Langrolay are unprecedented in their size and quality.

Such a massive villa was likely the country home of a very rich and politically prominent noble family, probably of the Curiosolitae people. The nearby village of Corseul is believed to have been the capital of the Curiosolitae (the naming of the main town after the people was a Gallic convention) and remains of the ancient Roman city of Fanum Martis have been discovered there. The villa would have been an easily accessible half-day’s ride from the city about eight miles away. It could also have been reached by river, a short boat trip up the Rance.

The excavation was originally scheduled to be finished by the end of November, with whatever could be salvaged removed from the site and the rest destroyed to make way for the undoubtedly unworthy subdivision. The discovery caused a sensation, however. When it was opened to the public on September 17th and 18th, more than 6,000 people visited it. The construction plan is going to be revised, as the city council voted to conserve the thermal baths in situ. For now, the site will be reburied for its own protection.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

In Memoriam: Lorenzo Quintain

East Kingdom Gazette - Mon, 2016-11-07 21:07

Lord Lorenzo Quintain, mundanely known as Larry Scharf, passed from this world on November 7, 2016. He was an early founding member and subchieftain of the legendary House Three Skulls and a member of the Barony of An Dubhaigeainn, being one of its former Seneschals. He was a dedicated member of the Society, active as a Heavy List Fighter, Fencer, and Archer. Outside of the SCA he was the CEO and Co-Founder of Brothers Grim Games in Selden, NY and worked for the Suffolk County Police Department for over 27 years. Lord Lorenzo received his AoA in 1988 and was known by many for his stories, his friendliness, and his generous nature.

The Gazette thanks Lady Rue for her words, and Fiona the Volatile for the photograph.

Filed under: In Memoriam

In Memoriam – Lord Avraham ben Ahron

East Kingdom Gazette - Sun, 2016-11-06 23:16

Photo courtesy of Lady Lavina Attewode and Baroness Sara di Salaparuta

Lord Avraham ben Ahron passed away on October 20 after a brief battle with cancer.  Avraham was a lifelong resident of Eastern Connecticut except for a few years spent in Boston during his education.  His research into Sogdian culture and Gers (Yurts) was notable, as was his infectious enthusiasm and his generosity in sharing his work.  Avraham was among the first SCA ger builders and built his first over thirty years ago.  He researched Mongolian and other Silk Road cultures and artifacts.

Avraham was active in the SCA for many years, although he was absent for some time due to family obligations.  Baron of Dragonship Haven, Master  Joseph of the Red Griffin of Dragonship Haven, remembers making his first armor with Avrahm’s direction and help in Avrahm’s driveway sometime in the mid-1980s. Avraham was inducted into the Order of the Yale, Dragonship Haven’s Baronial service order, in 1981.  In 1987, he became a member of the Order of the Hawk’s Bell, a Dragonship Haven Baronial A&S order that has since closed.   The East bestowed an Award of Arms on him in 1982.

Master Jaji shared the following memories of Avraham.

Avraham at Pennsic. Photo courtesy of Virag Qarabay.

“Avrahm ben Ahron broke ground and blazed trails in the fields of Jews in the SCA period, and those who lived on/near the Steppes in particular. If you have seen a yurt (ger) in the SCA over the last 30 years, chances are it was based at least partly on his design. He forged his own blade which he carried proudly…even if he felt there were 27 flaws which he was surprised no one could see (but himself, of course).

As a dutiful son, he stopped his life entirely to care for his ailing mother. When she passed several years ago, he ‘returned to the fold’. Those who knew him before he stopped coming around welcomed him back, and those who had never met him had a chance to do so. He searched long and hard to locate the appropriate fabric for garb his new researches had shown him was more appropriate for his persona. He wore that as proudly as the saber he forged…along with the bow, quiver, and arrows he also made. I am honored to say that he called me a friend all these years. “

An obituary can be found online.

Filed under: In Memoriam

Stolen illuminated manuscript leaf to return to Italy

History Blog - Sun, 2016-11-06 23:00

A stolen page from a 14th century illuminated manuscript that has been in the Cleveland Museum of Art since the 1950s is now in the hands of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations division in preparation for its return to Italy. Codex D is an antiphonary, a book of chants used by liturgical choirs in the Middle Ages, which was once held by the Church of Saints Ippolito and Biagio in Castelfiorentino, Tuscany, a town about halfway between Florence in Pisa, and is now kept in a Castelfiorentino museum. It’s not certain exactly when, but two illuminated leaves were stolen from the manuscript. One of them was bought by the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1952. It was attributed to a different illuminator at the time and the museum put it on display without realizing there was anything shady about its ownership history.

ICE only got involved recently when the second leaf from Codex D appeared on the art and antiquities Swiss market. That leaf was repatriated to Italy, but the investigation into its theft and recovery led to the leaf in Cleveland.

Working collaboratively with HSI to research the history of the leaf and after evaluating the information provided by the Italian government, the Museum agreed the leaf should be transferred to Italy to be reunited with the Antiphonary.

“Once we were able to substantiate the information provided, we decided that the best place for the leaf was back with the Antiphonary. We feel the leaf has greater significance if it is reunited with the other illuminations in the manuscript. Along with the recovery of a second leaf, the Antiphonary will now be complete” said William Griswold, director of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

The antiphonary was illuminated by one of the greatest artists of the first half of the 14th century. His name has yet to be discovered, but he is known as the Master of the Dominican Effigies. He was given his moniker by art historian Richard Offner after his magnum opus, a panel painting in the Church of Santa Maria Novella, Florence, entitled Christ and the Virgin Mary Enthroned, Attended by Seventeen Dominican Saints and Beati (beatified or blessed ones). His panel paintings were smaller triptychs and tabernacles characterized by complex narratives rendered on a miniature scale. He was one of a group of Florentine artists in the 14th century classified as painters of the “miniaturist tendency” who sought to capture the dynamism and emotion of life in the details of small scenes.

Many of the miniaturists, the Master of the Dominican Effigies prominent among them, were also manuscript illuminators. Indeed, their illumination skills played an important role in the artists’ approach to panel painting. Panels by the Master of Dominican Effigies, for example, have exquisite freeform decorative details created with a stylus rather than the metal rods with patterns on one end, known as punch tools, that were frequently used by Tuscan painters from the early 14th century to stamp decorations onto the work. He did it by hand with what was basically a pen, just like he did in his manuscripts.

The Master was one of the preeminent illuminators of his age and was commissioned by secular and religious patrons to illuminate antiphonaries, hymnals, even copies of Dante’s Divine Comedy. The Laudario of Sant’Agnese, a hymnal he illuminated together with his friend and the other preeminent illuminator of their time, Pacino di Bonaguida, is widely considered one of the most important illuminated manuscripts made in early 14th century Florence. Its pages are scattered in 16 collections in Europe and the United States, four of them in J. Paul Getty Museum.

Because of their rarity and art historical importance, individual pages from manuscripts illuminated by the Master of Dominican Effigies are highly prized and found in a number of top US museums, including the National Gallery of Art as well as the Getty. Even small fragments of his illuminations are considered museum quality and can be found in museums like the Art Institute of Chicago. One of the Getty’s Laudario holdings is a fragment, a cutout of the martyrdom of St. Lawrence by Pacino di Bonaguida.

Only one leaf from of The Laudario of Sant’Agnese is still in Italy, so the return of both stolen leafs from the Codex D antiphonary is a rare and precious thing. ICE and the Italian government are working out the details of the repatriation now.

Categories: Arts and Sciences, History

In Memoriam: Wulfgang Gruenwald

East Kingdom Gazette - Sun, 2016-11-06 22:39

Wulfgang & Tysha at Pennsic 45

The East Kingdom Gazette is saddened to report the unexpected passing of The Honorable Lord Wulfang Gruenwald, mundanely known as Robert Betts, on Saturday, November 5th, 2016. Wulfgang joined the SCA in 2009 after being brought to Ghosts, Ghouls, & Goblins and tossed into the kitchen by his Lady, Tysha z Kieva. He was awarded arms in 2011 by Lucan VIII & Jana V, received a Silver Crescent, Burdened Tyger, Tyger of Foreign Legions, as well as the King’s & Queen’s Awards of Esteem, and a Light of Carillion during his time in the SCA. A resident of the Barony of Carillion, he was protegéd to Maîtresse Jehannine de Flandres, and was a member of House Grog.

Visitation will be this Tuesday, November 8th from 6pm-8pm at O’Brien Funeral Home in Wall, New Jersey. Full details are available by clicking here.

MaîtresseJehannine de Flandres was Wulfgang’s Peer, and shared the following:

Wulfgang was a man who inspired a love of cooking and touched so many people in the SCA and beyond. His love of bacon, his laugh, and his generosity are some of the things that I will miss the most. He had such a wonderful way of bringing people into his circle and making them feel like family. It was this passion that we shared and why he asked me to be his Peer and mentor. Over the years I watched him strive to create wonderful feasts for Royals, Runnymeade, and his friends’ vigils. His kitchens were always filled with laughter and joy.

From the time Wulfgang entered our game he sought to return the love and welcome he received from his Barony, to all those he encountered. From his friends THL Ingvar Thorsteinsson & THL Hasanah al Khalil ibn Habib :

Wulfgang was the kind of guy you just wanted to be around; the kind of person who would give you what you needed, be it a shot of whisky, a plate of food, the shirt off his back, or his boot in your backside… he lived his personal life just as chivalrous at an event or in a disaster relief kitchen.

The Sandy Relief Kitchens Created by Wulfgang (2014)

Many remember the disaster relief kitchen Wulfgang organized in Sandy Hook, New Jersey following the devastation wrought by Superstorm Sandy. He gathered hundreds of volunteers, from SCAdians, to friends from Rainbow family communities, and many others, to come to a town struggling to survive in the devastation to their community in the aftermath of a storm. This massive undertaking, organized with the town leaders by Wulfgang served hundreds of meals per day during the clean-up efforts in difficult conditions. Master Mael Eoin mac Echuid, Baron of Bhakail describes Wulfgang and his deeds during that time this way:

Wulfgang was a person to aspire to. The nicest guy, he would not only give you the shirt off his back, if he didn’t have a shirt, he’d reach out to his numerous networks of friends and see who might be able to help… He was that guy… he was someone I wish I could be; if I could do half of what he’s done, be half as good a person, I’d be happy.

But it wasn’t just in dire straits that one could count on Wulfgang, as illustrated here by Duchess Kiena Stewart:

Bob, Gave… simple and straightforward. We wanted to attend NRWC a few years back and had no camp infrastructure of our own and we got chatting a bit. He told us to camp with them. All we had to do was show up. He took care of us and opened his hearth. And even though yes we were good friends, he would have done this for anyone – friend or stranger.

Whether it was a new cook showing up in an SCA kitchen for the first time, a town in need of three hot meals a day while recovering from staggering loss, or a wandering stranger in need of a meal, Wulfgang was an ever-present, living embodiment of hospitality. Much of that hospitality was given through the talent and skill Wulfgang had as a chef, respected far and wide for his knowledge of smoked meat.  Bob was often found in SCA kitchens, one particular occasion was recalled by Their Graces Brennan & Caoilfhionn, who shared their thoughts:

Bob was a kind, generous, compassionate, and passionate man. He always had a way to make people smile. He was incredibly fast to volunteer to cook the feast for our first Coronation, and we were honored to have him help us put together a dinner for the Princes and Princesses of the Knowne World at Pennsic 44. He was a visionary with food. He was a treasure as a friend. He was a true gem of the East Kingdom. His light was so very warm and bright, and it went out way too soon. Our world is noticeably, painfully darker for his absence.

Her Majesty Anna recalls her time spent with Wulfgang in that very kitchen at Pennsic 44 and shared the following:

…I got to spend time cooking with him and several other wonderful people. We had so much fun, we were all laughing so hard, we were sure we were having more fun than the Royal kids were. Such a good man, I will think of him often, especially if I’m in a kitchen.

Brion very much enjoyed spending the day with him at Rapier Champions two weeks ago. Just hanging out and talking, getting to know each other better. You never know when its going to be the last time you get to see somebody.

Many know of Wulfgang’s efforts in the kitchen, but his generosity, hard work, and dedication to all he met extended beyond the feast hall and campfire. He was an annual presence during Pennsic Staff Week, arriving well before attendees to haul equipment around site, dig, pound stakes, and just about any task set at his feet. This enormous effort continued in many ways throughout the event, with time spent volunteering with both The Watch and Technical Services. Master Rupert the Unbalanced shared the following memory of Wulfgang at Pennsic:

Many of my fondest memories of Wulfgang are from Pennsic. One in particular revolves around his rule concerning the solar cell phone charger in his camp. Anyone could use the charger, so long as it didn’t ring while under his fly. One person violated this rule. The first time, his phone’s language was changed to French. The second time, Wulfgang dropped his drawers and took a selfie of his butt. Then, he made [that] the wallpaper of said violator’s phone. It was truly a quintessential Wulfgang moment.

Rules and traditions are the cornerstone of any family unit, whether formed though blood or by choice, and Wulfgang sought to create and continue traditions that will surely last amongst his chosen family. Again from  Maîtresse Jehannine:

Pennsic morning coffee around his table became a camp tradition, and many a good story or Pennsic battle cry would come from the morning discussions, even once a good-natured water balloon fight with Bhakail. He started the tradition of a Thanksgiving feast for the camp and friends, which became a special evening filled with laughter and friendship.

Even back home, in the Barony of Carillion, Wulfgang served others. First, in kitchens, then as Canton Chatelaine, then Canton Seneschal, and most recently as Baronial Seneschal. He also served when construction projects came along, and was always quick to lend a hand. His friend and household member, Master Erhart von Stuttgart shared the following:

So many deep conversations were had that only consisted of grunts, “want a beer?”, “hungry?”, “try this.”, “hand me that tool.” [Wulfgang] had many skills that he would happily share and teach to anyone who asked.

When asked to describe Wulfgang,  Maîtresse Jehannine said the following:

Pennsic… coffee… bacon… wood working… loud… humorous… ball-buster… generous… scotch and beer, brother… Protege… these are some words to describe the man that touched my life. He honored me by letting me serve as his mentor and Peer. In truth, he taught me just as much and he will forever remind me of what this Society means.

To Wulfgang, the SCA was about love and family, and Carillion was also a large part of Wulfgang’s extended family. His long-time friends and current Baron & Baroness of Carillion, Corcrán & Luned shared the following:

He made the loss of Cosmo a softer blow by continuing to bring us all together… now that he is gone, the loss is that much greater. There is a hole in all our hearts and our lives… we were friends, partners in crime, and each other’s chosen family. We will daily cherish the memories and good times shared.

Finally, a quote by Goethe, shared by Duke Gavin Kilkenny that very much “fit” Wulfgang:

Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though t’were his own.

His obituary can be found online here.

Filed under: In Memoriam Tagged: In Memoriam

CORRECTION: Polling Response Deadline – Monday, November 7th

East Kingdom Gazette - Sun, 2016-11-06 21:51

Editor’s Note: This post appeared earlier with the words “Friday, November 7th” in the body of the post.  Polls are due on Monday, November 7th. 

Responses to the second poll of Their Majesties Brion and Anna need to be sent before midnight,  Monday, November 7th, when the polls close.

Polls are sent to the members of the Orders of High Merit and the Peerages so that they may provide input to the Crown on future members.  Orders which conduct polls include the Chivalry, Laurel, Pelican, Defense, Silver Crescent, Tygers Combatant, Sagittarius, Maunche, Golden Rapier, and Golden Lance.

If you are a member of one of the Orders of High Merit or the Peerage and are not currently receiving polling emails, please sign up via the instructions on the East Kingdom Polling Lists page. Please note that the discussion lists and the polling lists must be subscribed separately.

Filed under: Uncategorized